Chelsea’s fighting performance to beat a determined Notts County would not tell you that in theory, they have nothing to play for. The game's outcome would not have changed anything, with Chelsea securing Champions League football last wek - but the game was played with an unexpected heat, on such a chilly night as the Blues won 3-1.
Emma Hayes' fielded a slightly diluted side, with names like Gemma Davison and Claire Rafferty on the bench, but the performance was still glazed with a quality the club have become synonymous with.
Despite their fourth consecutive league loss to Chelsea and a shower of goals, Notts County concluded their season to a chorus of 1,012 fans who did not stop banging their drums.
Third time lucky
The scoring could have been opened early as Bethany England fought her way behind the Notts County defensive line but a clumsy touch denied her the opportunity.
England found herself in a similar goal scoring position when a floating cross from Ana Borges met her head but she was only able to aim it over the post.
The failed attempt did not stop Borges in her hunt for an assist, the winger continued to exploit the flanks as Chelsea dominated possession. She hit a similar cross to nobody in particular but on her third attempt, striker Eniola Aluko was there to pick up the rebound, albeit clumsily.
Chelsea could only enjoy their lead for five minutes as Rachel Williams stormed through the final third. Once she was finally dispossessed in the penalty area, Aileen Whelan was only too happy to meet the ball with a powerful strike, equalising for the Lady Pies.
After a thrilling opening 20 minutes, the teams were square and the play began to slow down. The visitors enjoyed most of the possession, stringing together beautiful collections of passes from the back and into the more dangerous zones. Despite the Blue dominance, County’s defence handled each attack well. If Megan Walsh was not there to collect the ball, Jo Potter usually found a way to intercept.
Notts County’s main attacking threat, Jess Clarke, was taken off injured in the 30th minute after colliding with Millie Bright. The absence of the pacy number seven was felt as the counter attacks that the home side were reliant on had become considerably slower.
Chelsea still have it
As the second half got underway it was the side in black and white that displayed the most hunger, going close twice. Williams was the conductor, weaving in and out of Chelsea’s back four. Most notably delivering a ball to substitute Charlotte Steggles, who smashed it just wide of the post.
Despite the resistance from Notts County, Chelsea displayed their quality in a sixty seconds goal flurry. Karen Carney’s counter summoned a surge of attack. Aluko met Carney’s run and delivered a defence splitting cross, Ji So-Yun was there to put a head on it. If that did not unsettle the Lady Pies then Beth England’s strike that went hurtling past Walsh just seconds later should have.
Yet County were not satisfied with the idea of giving in, they responded well with Williams yet again at the heart of it. Alas, the persistence yielded no dividends. They came close yet again in the closing minutes, after a long lull in play. Lindahl was unable to put a grip around the ball and while goal scorer Whelan was there to capitalise, she could only rocket it over the bar.
Rachel Williams was rightly awarded the player of the match award but unfortunately her persistence was kept out by the well-oiled defence of Chelsea.